The All-In-One CMO Of The Future

As marketing becomes core to business outcomes, the CMO must not only wear the modern marketing hat but also understand both technology & revenue functions

In a world of rapidly advancing technology, changing customer attitudes and unpredictable trends, marketing is evolving at lightning speed. As a natural consequence, the role of marketers has often been debated. It becomes imperative for them to fit themselves in the changing needs of a modern work environment, overseeing not only branding and marketing activities but also business growth and customer experience. 

A marketer’s prime aim must be to build a great brand and its equity. Reiterating this, Shuvadip Banerjee, Vice President – Marketing Services at ITC explains, “If we create strong brands, business will follow. For me, a marketer’s job consists both - the ‘science’ and the ‘art’ of selling. Data and analytics have been great enablers here.”  

He voices the school of thought that the role of a CMO is far more central and will get better as the industry progresses, “Also, both on the vector of efficiency and impact, as marketers, we have got newer avenues to deliver greater impact and return on investment (RoI) that we are spending to build our brands,” Banerjee adds. 

That being said, the CMO’s role in an organization has more often than not come under debate, some even stating the role may not even exist in the future. Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer, Aditya Birla Capital argues here that the existence of the term, CMO, is immaterial. For him, the closer a CMO is to the realities and deliveries of the business, he will stay there forever. “A CMO’s core job is to understand the customer and pull him in an attributional way towards the brand. As marketers, we talk of a language alienated from business. Business and marketing must speak the same language,” he says. 

What would happen to an organization if the CMO wasn't there? Addressing this critical question, Amit Doshi, Chief Marketing Officer, Lenovo India reflects, “Given the environment today, there is a lot more short-termism. And thus, the role of a CMO translates into becoming a balancing force, that can bring and should continue to bring in this balance. As a result, there will be obvious conflicts but CMOs must strive to bridge this gap.” 

The marketing function is sometimes blamed that it is not speaking the language of some of the other business driven roles, and this should change. Doshi however believes there is also merit in speaking the other language. He states, “If all voices in the organization will speak the same language and tone, then the company will either go to the moon or totally in reverse. It will lack the much needed diversity in thought and approach.”

Of The Experience Makers

Brand experience is said to be the new battleground for companies in order to attract their consumers. Kakar assert this, and says, “Take the BFSI category for example. It cannot be touched or experienced. It is a promise on a paper for the long-term. The only way to gain and retain customer trust is through experiences which must start before, during and after the purchase. Taking in account the past few months, consumers have taught us that they can change experience and expectations within days, if a marketer tells him what is in for him.” 

For creating this kind of experiences, marketing needs to work cohesively with other disciplines. Commenting on whether an integrated work culture can be expected in current company structures, Banerjee reminds that a ‘consumer focused approach’ would not allow for silos. 

“Consumers did not experience siloed marketing activity even 20 years back. It was still with multiple touch points. Just the number of touch points today have multifold and the consumers' desire to have a heightened experience at every touchpoint has increased. As a marketer, it becomes a challenge to provide consumers with delight and world-class experience. While our intent to delight the customer has not changed, the route to the delight has altered,” he observes. 

Marketing experts agree that the fundamentals of the discipline have remained the same, and the focus on effectiveness will continue. Doshi says, “What has come in is a divided house - some call it the world of opportunity, while others see it a world of distraction. For me, both sides are right. What will change is traditional media becoming non-traditional. So, the messages will remain the same, but media might change. Similarly, new media will constantly strive to be more traditional. The two worlds will sit together and learn from each other. The new reality will be blended.”

The senior industry leaders were speaking at the inaugural edition of the BW Top 50 Marketers, in a session moderated by BW Businessworld’s Group Editorial Director, Noor Fathima Warsia.